Protest Is Patriotism

Urban recognizes that democracy does not start and end in the voting booth. On November 9, 2016, 159 Urban students walked out of school to peacefully protest the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. I did not attend the protests because of a commitment at my Service Learning site, but I support those who did and intend to protest on January 20, 2017, at Trump’s inauguration, which also happens to be National Strike Day. In this article, I will wear my biases on my sleeve but focus on the importance of protest rather than the specific circumstances of this election. Those who are now protesting after voting for a third party, not at all, or even for Trump himself are hypocrites looking to feel morally superior, but those who could not vote because of age or other restrictions or voted for Hillary Clinton (the only candidate with any chance of defeating Trump) have every right to be frustrated and make their frustration known.

If you believe that Donald Trump is unqualified and unsuited to be President— that future generations will look back at the early 2000s in America and ask how people could possibly have let this happen, you must be the voice that resists the government. You do not have to argue that the results of the election should be invalid because the outcome was undesirable for you. In fact, I find the people protesting on those grounds to be naïve and misinformed.

Instead, you must be able to look your children in the eye and tell them that you did everything in your power to prevent Donald J. Trump—the first President of the United States with no government or military experience, who was elected while facing multiple charges for fraud and sexual assault, the first to not release his tax returns since the 1960s— from acting without pushback or dissent. John Adams, second President of the United States, warned of a “tyranny of the majority” in which those unrepresented or underrepresented in government would have their rights infringed upon by the majority in power—though Trump, winning via the Electoral College, did not carry a majority or even a plurality of the popular vote.

        Regardless of the results of the election, I personally would still support any and all peaceful protests by Americans looking to make their voices heard. After Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States, protests spread like wildfire throughout red and purple states. I’ll make no secret of the fact that I have supported and continue to support Barack Obama, but those protesters were utilizing their freedom of speech and doing their patriotic duty by making their dissenting voices heard. And many Trump supporters have made it clear that had Clinton been elected, they wouldn’t have taken the result lying down. Former congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “on November 9, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.” He later asserted that he actually meant peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience, though his phrasing was poor if that was the case.

        The fact of the matter is —with a few exceptions that should and must be unequivocally condemned– protesting Trump’s election hurts no one. Even if it is truly meaningless outside of the catharsis it provides to the protesters themselves—a big “if”, in my opinion– the peaceful expression of political beliefs in public, especially when they go against the group in power, should always be encouraged.